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Banaei-Kashani, Connors, Marshall, and Wood receive Presidential Initiative on Urban Research grants

Dan Connors, associate professor of electrical engineering, Farnoush Banaei-Kashani, assistant professor of computer science and engineering, Wesley Marshall, professor of civil engineering, and Kris Wood, senior associate dean for innovation and engagement, have all received  first-round seed grants from the CU Denver Presidential Initiative on Urban Research.  Each award is highlighted below.

Developing Descriptive and Predictive Causal Models to Study the Impacts of Highway Construction on Ambient Air Quality in the Front Range
Project Lead: Farnoush Banaei-Kashani

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), building on a collaboration with Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE), is initiating a multi-year Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funded project to document and understand impacts of typical highway construction activities on air quality in the Front Range. As part of this project the team is deploying a variety of environmental monitoring sensors along the I-270 corridor, collecting multimodal environmental data including PM2.5, PM10, NOx, and total tVOC (Total Volatile Organic Compounds), to name a few. The existing collaboration has similar suites of sensors along the central I-70 corridor. With our proposed project, in partnership with the aforementioned team we will (1) obtain air quality data from the location targeted by the FHWA sponsored project, (2) augment and fuse the air quality data with publicly available construction, traffic, and weather datasets, and finally, (3) use the fused data to develop descriptive and predictive causal models that can quantify the impact of highway construction projects on air quality.  

Using Artificial Intelligence and Sensors to Quantify Mobility in Real-time
Project Lead: Dan Connors

While vast resources are being invested in the creation of autonomous vehicles, identical attention must be placed on making equal advances in smart, connected intelligent transportation infrastructure. SmartCity infrastructure enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) can perceive objects (e.g., vehicles, pedestrians, bikes, etc.) on the roadway and gather information on individual vehicles or composite state of traffic at a considerably finer level of granularity than present systems provide. The proposed seed grant will extend and promote the development of AI-based computer vision developed by Professor Connors and University of Colorado Denver’s Edge Computing Laboratory. The core goal is to enable infrastructure-based computer visual perception and sensor fusion that quantify all mobility within transportation and urban areas. With an application to two areas of immediate practical interest the research will highlight using CU Denver Auraria campus as an open-research SmartCity environment: vehicle identification and classification, and smart intersection signaling. In both cases the project will utilize physically and visually realistic computer simulation to develop and evaluate deep learning neural network algorithms and follow with a pilot deployment of the algorithms for real-world validation with municipal partners. Overall, with the help of community partners, the seed funding will help extend existing work in artificial intelligence and computer vision further into the SmartCity domain. Seed support will impact the potential success of large-scale funding opportunities within National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, and Department of Transportation.

Five Points to Five Notes
Project Lead: Kristin Wood

This project involves creative work in the form of a public art commission and permanent installation to honor Denver’s African American jazz heritage in the Five Points area, and a multimedia augmented reality (AR) app for viewers to explore content related to place and history. The goals are to (1) create lasting art to enhance the area, (2) engage the community in meaningful reflection to lift up of their heritage and cultural history of place, and (3) educate, with innovative pedagogy, CU Denver students in a variety of skills, including understanding creative placemaking and the process of community empowerment through arts engagement.

Learning from the Travel Experiences of Persons with Disabilities
Project lead: Manish Shirgaokar (Dept. of Urban and Regional Planning)
CO-PI: Wesley Marshall

This project investigates the travel behavior of persons with disabilities (PWDs) focusing especially on barriers that they experience in the Denver region. Researchers know a great deal about mobility and safety of the broader population. However, the micro-geography of travel of PWDs, who travel largely on infrastructure that is designed for those without disabilities, is not well understood. Using a smartphone app, our primary objective is to map, at a fine grain, the travel patterns of volunteer PWDs and compare these trips with those of non-PWDs. Our community partner is the Denver Regional Mobility & Access Council (DRMAC). We aim to learn from DRMAC as subject matter experts and work with them to disseminate our findings for identifying gaps and adjusting infrastructure standards in the Denver region and the Front Range communities. Specifically, we aim to reassess standards for sidewalks and transit with a focus on curb cuts, transit stops, street furniture, and parking for micro-mobility devices such as e-scooters. We also designed this project as a proof-of-concept to test within the Denver region and will seek funding for scaling up to other cities with more diverse populations (including older adults over 64 years), topography, and weather.

Per Chancellor Marks, “This initiative, sponsored by the CU system to bolster each campus’s unique area of expertise, is intended to support CU Denver’s urban and place-based research and creative work. This is a terrific opportunity for us to further fulfill our role as an urban serving research university.”


CU Denver Engineering, Design and Computing View All

At the CU Denver College of Engineering, Design and Computing, we focus on providing our students with a comprehensive engineering education at the undergraduate, graduate and professional level. Faculty conduct research that spans our five disciplines of civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, bioengineering, and computer science and engineering. The college collaborates with industry from around the state; our laboratories and research opportunities give students the hands-on experience they need to excel in the professional world.

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